Uplifting Local Makers
Ashli Tafolla started hosting Small Business Markets in 2018 as a way to reach more people in her own direct sales company, while also lifting up other small business owners. In the beginning of her journey, Ashli was making her own essential oil concoctions for herself, as well as gifts for friends and family. When those individuals began requesting to purchase more, Ashli knew she needed to open her own essential oil business and thus launched Your Life Essentially. “I began as a DoTerra member and would host house parties,” said Ashli. “It can be really awkward for people to show up to a stranger’s home, but that was the main way to reach customers.” When Ashli struggled to get accepted into other markets in an attempt to broaden her reach, she realized there was a need that was waiting to be met. So, she sent an email to Scott Richardson at the Willy’s Bagels and Blends’ Heritage location inquiring about their private event room. “I chose them specifically because they had the larger indoor event space. I also figured that it was a win-win for the pubic to come shop from local small makers while also supporting Willy’s before or after they browse.”
Originally Ashli held her indoor market twice a year, a spring market and a holiday market. Then when 2020 hit and everything shut down, Ashli reached back out to Scott to see if the market could continue outdoors. “Small businesses were struggling and people were looking for something to do,” said Ashli. “So, we moved into the parking lot area and it wound up being great. People would drive by and see us and stop. It felt like something so good in that crazy year. We really had a community where everybody was uplifting and supporting each other.” Moving outside not only allowed Ashli and the other creators to continue selling their products, but it also gave the Small Business Market a chance to expand with a more spacious outdoor location. “We can comfortably have about 25 vendors in the parking lot, allowing space for shoppers and displays without feeling crammed.”
As the location of the market shifted, Ashli made the switch from hosting twice a year to holding a gathering almost every month with the exception of the hot summer days. She also began to incorporate fun activities for the family like visits from various characters, photo ops and scavenger hunts. “We do extra fun things like scavenger hunts for the kids with items hidden in the vendor booths so mom and dad can shop. Then they’d get a goodie bag at the end. We love to make it interactive for the whole family.” The Small Business Market boasts a variety of different vendors which Ashli is mindful to maintain. While there are some repeat creatives, Ashli loves to add new individuals to keep it fun for the shoppers and to give those newer businesses an opportunity to put themselves out there and introduce themselves to the community. “I really try to not have competing vendors present,” said Ashli. “I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to compete for sales. I have applicants fill out a form, and I make it clear that if there’s another vendor with competing products, I will add them to my waiting list for the next market.”
While Ashli is the one who got the ball rolling for this wonderful event, she does not consider the Small Business Market to be solely hers. “It’s not my market. It’s our market,” said Ashli. “I’m partnering with my vendors, and I hope that they feel that partnership. That’s what I’m trying to foster. I want to let them know that we’re all out here to support and love on each other. It might be a smaller market, but it’s pretty amazing.” Allowing new businesses the opportunity to jump into the market world is what truly motivates Ashli to continue putting in the never ending hard work that goes into coordinating such an event. “It lights me up; it’s really fun.” However, with three girls that she homeschools and who are involved in sports, Ashli has realized that it will be necessary to scale back the market frequency moving forward. “Going into 2024 I think continuing with a monthly market is unrealistic for my schedule,” said Ashli. “My family is my priority, so moving forward I will probably hold four markets per year.” Ashli hopes to host two spring markets, one with an appearance by the Easter Bunny, and two holiday markets.
In addition to the schedule change, Ashli also hopes that 2024 will bring more people out to the markets. “There are always people who say they didn’t know our event was happening, so I’m really hoping to get the word out even more. I always want it to be as amazing as possible for the vendors.” Either way, it doesn’t look like Ashli or the Small Business Market is going anywhere any time soon. “Brentwood is such a great family town. This is our home and I love being able to do these things alongside my girls and with my family.”
Photos by: Provided